How did you get into architecture? Zach-1_small for web

As a kid, my favorite toys were Legos and Tinker Toys. My father and my grandfather were always doing home repairs and building projects at our “farm” (it was really more of a ranch), and I’d always help them. In high school, I really enjoyed drafting class and realized, “hey I could do this as a career.”

How did you land in Colorado?

I did my undergrad at Texas A&M and my graduate studies at CU Denver.

I always knew I wanted to live in Colorado because of my family roots, specifically in Colorado Springs where my grandmother grew up and my father was born.   As a kid for our family vacations, we’d  always do the twelve-hour drive from Texas to Colorado Springs, and spend time there before camping in the mountains. I loved Colorado, so my goal was to cut out the twelve-hour drive. I got a job as an intern at Bollar Cruz Architects in Colorado Springs while finishing school, and I went on to work with them for 13 years.

Chuck Bollar and George Cruz retired right at the end of the recession, and Chuck said to me “you should start your own practice and continue to help the clients that I have spent a lifetime cultivating.” He really helped me get started and was very supportive. He had a heart attack and passed away three months later.

What are some of your favorite projects to work on?

Bollar Cruz’s bread and butter was churches and religious nonprofits, and I continue to serve that community. It’s a type of architecture that allows you to be creative because there’s really never much of a budget to work with, but they of course want a nice finished product. The challenge and the fun are making that happen. Some prefer a single “client” , but I think it’s fun to deal with a committee of volunteers, each  with their own visions, and bringing that together as an architect.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for architects in Colorado?

After having gone through the recession, the economy right now is giving us so many opportunities and sometimes, too many opportunities. The sheer amount of work, finding time to get it done and keeping the quality high can be a challenge.

Being on the AIA Colorado Board of Directors has opened my eyes to the challenges we face in the western part of the country in relation to architects in other states. Our neighbors in Arizona have had to deal with some major questions about whether architects even need to be licensed. I think that’s always on the horizon and something we need to vigilant about in Colorado—continuing to defend our license.

The whole charter of our license is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people. I think because the engineers and contractors that we work with are really keyed into their specific niches, ensuring the overall safety really does fall on our shoulders as architects. Without architects, and without a license, I would have concerns about who would try and take on that role and whether they are really capable.

Why did you decide to get involved and run for the AIA Colorado Board?

In all of the organizations that I am a part of,  I believe you get out what you put in. I was initially involved on the south board before repositioning and becoming one statewide organization. Prior to that, I thought I knew what AIA Colorado did, but while I was on the board, I learned they actually did so much more. After repositioning, I ran for treasurer of the AIA Colorado Board of Directors. I took a year off, thought I was done, and then was asked to consider serving on the board again.

I think having diversity and diverse perspectives on the board is critical. That’s why I like working with our various committees, because you have a wealth of knowledge to learn from.

I am really proud of the work we have done as a board.  This year we created the Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness Task Force.  I don’t know that we have the answers yet to attract and retain more women and minorities to the profession, but I think the fact that we are focusing on it can only lead to good things.

What part of the strategic workplan are you most excited for next year?

I am excited about next year’s Editorial Advisory Committee and the local advocacy initiatives. With Advocacy, we’ve always had good traction with state issues, and I am excited to see that expand to local municipalities throughout Colorado.

Programs-wise, I think of everything we do, my favorite is the Practice + Design Conference. I’ve been to the national AIA conference a few times, the Western Mountain Region Conference and the AIA Colorado conference, and I think ours is one of the very best. I think the caliber of our state conference is right up there, if not surpassing the national conference

What do you hope to achieve as AIA Colorado Board President?

I don’t really think it’s about me or what I want to do. To me, the sign of a good leader is that on the outside, you can’t really tell all that goes into the work because the leader makes sure that behind the scenes, things run smooth and efficiently. I want to work as a group to make sure that the 2019 strategic workplan that we just approved as a board gets implemented and meets members’ needs.

In your opinion, what are the biggest benefits of AIA membership?

For me personally, it’s far-and-away the advocacy that we do. It’s doing things together that we cannot do alone as individual architects. We’re not the biggest profession in the state, but we punch above our weight class to make sure our members are protected through advocacy.

If we don’t advocate, and as a result, have no license or profession, what are we left with? The conference and other AIA Colorado programs are great because they give us continuing education, networking and the time to get together and talk about issues in architecture, but if we don’t have a license, or every time we start a project we are looking at a wall of lawsuits, it’s all for not.

Lastly, what do you like to do when you are not working or giving back to the profession?

I enjoy doing projects and home improvement like my father and grandfather. My home was built around 1902, so I enjoy bringing it into the modern age. Spending time with my kids is also a big priority to me. I am Scoutmaster for my son’s Boy Scout troop (which will soon also be my daughter’s troop, as Boy Scouts is going to start allowing girls to be involved). That also lets me get out into nature which I love.  In the winter, I enjoy getting into the mountains with my family to snowboard.